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Adrenal Burnout – Top Suspect in Recurring Infection & Fatigue

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Terry Lemerond shares the wisdom of 40 years spent researching & developing more than 300 nutritional and botanical health support formulations, and is a well-known author, advisor, and educator. This article is reproduced with kind permission* from his website TerryTalksNutrition.com.


Adrenal Burnout, Fatigue and Stress

The opinion of medical experts is that the ability to resist infections is more a function of the adrenal’s integrity than the immune system.”

…Awakening every morning feeling completely inadequate to meet the demands of the day. …Left feeling drained by even small amounts of physical or mental stress…. The root cause is very often impaired adrenal and or thyroid function.

In fact, I have probably been asked more questions about the adrenal and thyroid glandular systems, and the symptoms of underactive adrenal and thyroid function, than just about any other health topic.

So many people feel helpless to deal with their exhaustion following any “fight or flight” stress response. We know that adrenal burnout and an underactive thyroid can have long-term, serious consequences. Are you wondering if your adrenal glands are less than optimal? It is more widespread than you may think.

Keep reading to take a self-assessment test to determine your degree of adrenal dysfunction, as well as to learn how to solve the problems of adrenal insufficiency and hypothyroidism.

Adrenal Function

The adrenal glands are two small glands about the size of an acorn, one sitting on top of each kidney.

The adrenals produce many hormones that keep us healthy, both physically and mentally. As early as 1898, Emile Sergent, the great French physician, described the two prime functions of the adrenals as antitoxic and angiotonic [supporting healthy resilient tone of the vascular system]. His description of the detoxifying functions of the adrenals was brilliant.

Should these glands happen to be damaged, a condition of depression and muscular fatigue is seen to appear which, in man, we shall find in the form of the earlier symptoms of adrenal insufficiency – asthenia” (physical weakness and loss of strength).”

Functional adrenal insufficiency is due to a number of factors: inadequate development from birth, exhaustion by fatigue, senile degeneration, chronic stress or any factor which, without provoking organic disease of the glands, is capable of reducing their normal activity.

Other symptoms which may occur are sensitivity to cold, hypotension [low blood pressure], weak cardiac action and pulse, anorexia, slow metabolism, and constipation.

People with adrenal insufficiency usually have many symptoms associated with upper respiratory problems. They are the ones who always have a cold, allergies, hives and usually anything that goes around.

There are many other subclinical signs and symptoms of adrenal dysfunction, and at the end of this article I will give you a self analysis to determine your degree of adrenal insufficiency.

With strong adrenal activity, you will be healthy both mentally and physically. People with strongly functioning adrenals enjoy friendly confrontation, fear nothing, and many of them become business entrepreneurs or enjoy taking risks in other areas of their lives…. Those with weak adrenals, depending on the degree of insufficiency, have weak muscles, are filled with fear and are afraid to tackle huge projects….

Low Blood Pressure

I caution you regarding hypotension (low blood pressure), since doctors are so concerned with high blood pressure, low blood pressure may be considered healthy. It is not.

Nature always has a balance, and high or low is abnormal. It is true that high-performing athletes may have lower blood pressure because they have developed such an enormous cardiac capacity.

But if you are not a super-athlete, low blood pressure can be a problem signal! I have seen individuals with low blood pressure in the range of 105 to 110 over 60 to 70, and they may wonder why they are always sick.

Adrenal insufficiency is probably the number one factor underlying many health disorders that no one has an answer for.

• Adrenal insufficiency often begins after a period of prolonged stress. The stress can either be emotional or metabolic.

• The main symptom is fatigue which is most frequently severe in the morning. It is often the individual who describes himself as a slow starter or says he is not a morning person.

• The opinion of medical experts is that the ability to resist infections is more a function of the adrenal’s integrity than the immune system.

       – The adrenal patient will have recurrent minor infections,

       – While the immune deficient patient will have more prolonged and deep seated infections that often respond poorly to standard antibiotic treatment.

• Very typical of adrenal insufficiency is post viral fatigue. After clearance of an infection or viral outbreak, the individual is usually exhausted.

      – Most of the so-called ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ cases begin after significant stress such as surgery, viral infection, trauma or accident.

      – The inability to recover is in large part due to adrenal exhaustion that has been developing due to underlying stress such as poor nutrition, mental and physical stress, overwork and lack of sleep.

Allergies, especially in the individual, are often a manifestation of adrenal insufficiency. Recurrent sneezing can be a subtle clue of adrenal weakness.

In nearly every case of multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, low adrenal function has been the underlying cause of the condition. Those who have less severe forms of sensitivities have proportionately less severe adrenal insufficiency.

Many people today are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Usually when their fatigue began they were suffering from a viral infection or other major stress that challenged their adrenal glands. You will often find that rejuvenating the adrenals will provide substantial improvement.

Low Thyroid Function (Hypothyroidism)

Hypothyroidism also plays a significant part in this complex condition.

Stiffness upon rising, especially of the low back, is often a complaint of the individual. Usually after a hot shower the back pain subsides. Another common finding is a sore throat in the morning. As the day progresses the sore throat resolves. [Both are frequent symptoms of thyroid disease.]

Although the thyroid is often the first gland that comes to mind in patients with fatigue, I would recommend deferring any thyroid stimulation until you are certain of the integrity and normal function of the adrenals.

• If you first stimulate thyroid function without regard to the adrenal glands, you will increase the metabolism, and therefore, increase the demands placed on the adrenals.

• The ideal solution is to first support and repair adrenal function, and then support thyroid function if required.

Many people who undergo thyroid therapy and initially have outstanding results, but then deteriorate back to their original state of health, should think about the adrenal function and its support.

Repairing the Adrenal Glands

To correct adrenal insufficiency, there are a number of necessary nutritional factors that the adrenals require to function at their peak optimal level.

B vitamins are necessary, particularly vitamin B6… and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).

L-tyrosine is required to produce epinephrine and norepinephrine [aka adrenaline and noradrenaline, two hormones made by the adrenal gland to support response to stress].

• The only place in the body that vitamin C is temporarily stored is in the adrenal glands.

DHEA and pregnenolone are two adrenal hormones that are precursors for all other hormones.

• I believe it is very necessary to support the adrenal function with freeze dried adrenal extract.

• There are also two herbs that I would heavily rely on to support adrenal function; licorice root extract (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa). Both support liver function and restore adrenal function. They also facilitate the body’s normal response to occasional stress.


The ideal diet for someone experiencing adrenal insufficiency would be similar to the diet for the hypoglycemic person;

• Low carbohydrates

• With an emphasis on proteins and high quality fats.

Sodium is a critical factor and should not be avoided. However, the salt should be of high quality and not refined white salt or white sea salt. I would highly recommend Celtic sea salt [unrefined, contains natural iodine and many trace minerals] usually ½ teaspoon of salt to a quart of water, three quarts of the salt and water combination per day. You will also find this to be an excellent detoxifying method.


The following questionnaire will help determine whether or not you could possibly be experiencing adrenal insufficiency (underactive function). Circle the number that is most appropriate for you. If the indication does not apply to you then just leave it blank.

• If you experience that indication in a mild way circle #1. That means you may experience that indication once or twice a month.

• Circle #2 for moderate symptoms which means they may occur several times a month.

• Circle #3 for severe symptoms which are symptoms that you are aware of almost constantly.

Do not agonize over whether or not you have one of the following problems. Do not ask family members and friends if they think you have these problems. Do not overthink – answer these questions instantly. You should know at once if you have one of these indications.

After you’ve circled the correct numbers, add your score. If you have a score of 5-8, you may have a mild case of adrenal insufficiency. A score of 8-12 may indicate a moderate case, and 12 or over is highly indicative of a severe case of adrenal insufficiency.


Chronic fatigue                      1    2    3

Low blood pressure                1    2    3

Muscle weakness                  1    2    3

Dizziness                               1    2    3

Weak, rigid nails                     1    2    3

Brown spots or bronzing
of skin esp. on the shins          1    2    3

Frequent hives                         1    2    3

Arthritis                                   1    2    3

Respiratory disorders               1    2    3

Bowel disorders                       1    2    3

Muscular & nervous
exhaustion                              1    2    3

Increased perspiration              1    2    3

Constipation                           1    2    3

Swollen ankles,
esp. in PM                             1    2    3

Crave salt                              1    2    3

Allergies                                1    2    3

Asthma                                  1    2    3

Brochitis                                1    2    3

Weakness after
colds, flu                               1    2    3

TOTAL:                                 ________


Other Resources:

“Adrenal Depletion: The Most Commonly Missed Cause of Fatigue,” by Joseph Mercola, MD.

“The Adrenal Gland and ME/CFS – Stresses & Problems with the Body’s ‘Gear Box'” by Sarah Myhill, MD.

* Source: This information (©2011 TerryTalksNutrition, All Rights Reserved) has not been reviewed by the FDA. It is general information, based on the research and opinions of Terry Lemerond unless otherwise noted, and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is always very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.

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2 thoughts on “Adrenal Burnout – Top Suspect in Recurring Infection & Fatigue”

  1. ftgirl says:

    Many people including myself have tried so many of these things to treat low adrenal function and had bad reactions to every one of them. Any advice?

  2. NikiHicks says:

    I developed ME/CFS 10 years ago following a brief infectious illness. In the past year I developed secondary adrenal insufficiency following prolonged use of corticosteroids. As a sufferer of both conditions I believe I am qualified to comment on this article.

    The symptoms of adrenal insufficiency are NOT the same as that for ME/CFS. They do not feel the same to the sufferer. Yes there is extreme fatigue, but also lack of appetite, weight loss, low blood pressure leading to constant feelings of light-headedness even when sitting down, and nausea & diarrhea on rising in the morning. In contrast to ME/CFS which leads to disordered and unrefreshing sleep, when I was suffering from undiagnosed adrenal insufficiency I experienced profound sleepiness in the evenings and slept incredibly deeply for 10 hours a night – barely waking or rolling over during the night.

    A diagnosis of secondary adrenal insufficiency was made based on blood test results and I am now on daily low doses of corticosteroids to replace the hormones my body is no longer able to make. Now that I am on the correct medications I feel much better than I did because the symptoms of adrenal insufficiency are gone, however all the symptoms of ME/CFS still remain because I still have that disease – it has not been cured by treating me for another illness. For example, I struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, and I wake often during the night. I have all the same ME/CFS symptoms and disease-imposed limitations I had before I developed adrenal insufficiency, I just don’t have the adrenal insufficiency symptoms in addition to them. My endocrinologist monitors my thyroid function so I know that is not a contributing factor.

    In summary: correcting adrenal insufficiency is NOT a cure for ME/CFS. These are two different diseases with different symptoms. I fear this is another illustration of how the name CFS puts an emphasis on the symptom of fatigue, and as a result any doctor who can treat a disease that also causes fatigue believes he has discovered a cure for CFS that all the researchers across the world specializing in ME/CFS haven’t yet stumbled upon. If you genuinely feel you might have adrenal insufficiency, drag yourself (or more likely because you’ll be feeling so ill, ask someone else to take you) to your doctor and ask for a blood test to measure your cortisol levels (the blood must be drawn between 6am & 8am for the results to be meaningful). However, don’t expect that any subsequent treatment will cure your ME/CFS.

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